BA in American Studies

The American & New England Studies Program offers an intellectually diverse, flexible, student-centered major in American Studies that explores the richness of the American experience within national and global contexts. By drawing upon a variety of intellectual traditions, students learn to understand and interpret disparate American cultures as they are expressed in a range of forms: from seventeenth century buildings to electronic media and from fine art to patterns of political engagement. Majors work with renowned and wide-ranging faculty, located across departments and schools, to tailor their own interdisciplinary course of study to individual interests and goals. Scholarly undertakings might involve analyzing blues lyrics or interpreting beauty pageants, commenting on professional sports or critiquing twentieth-century pulp fiction; but no matter what the project or specific set of classes, students learn to evaluate evidence, structure arguments, and think critically about the world around them. The skills and knowledge gained in the major can help students interested in careers in journalism, education, law, communications, business, and other fields.

A major in American Studies requires the completion of 10 four-credit courses, approved by the program, with a grade of C or higher in each course. To complete this major, students must fulfill the following requirements:

Core Courses

All majors must take two core courses:

  • CAS AM 200 Introduction to American Studies
  • one CAS AM course at the 200 level or above

These courses acquaint students with the critical problems and methods of American Studies. They stress the analysis of key configurations of ideas, values, and institutions that define specific periods of the American past and present and find expression in folklore, art, material culture, literature, politics, and mass media.

Disciplinary Courses

Students majoring in American Studies must take a total of seven CAS courses in addition to the core courses:

  • Five of these courses must be taken in AM or within no more than two affiliated disciplines. Affiliated disciplines include African American studies, anthropology, archaeology, economics, English, geography, history, history of art & architecture, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology, and women’s, gender, & sexuality studies. These courses must deal with aspects of the American experience and must be chosen in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies.
  • Two additional courses must be taken that explore the literature, culture, art, history, or politics of a single non-American society. Students are urged to fulfill this last requirement in conjunction with their work in a foreign language and its literature. For example, a student fulfilling his or her CAS language requirement in French would be encouraged to take additional courses in French literature, art, or history. This requirement may be fulfilled during study abroad.

Senior Project

Majors complete their program of study by undertaking a one- or two-semester senior project. The senior project may take the form of a research seminar (CAS AM 501 or AM 502) or an individual Directed Study leading to a senior thesis based on original research or criticism (CAS AM 491 or AM 492). In lieu of a senior project, qualified seniors may undertake a two-semester honors thesis (CAS AM 401 and AM 402), which must be evaluated by a faculty committee.

Recommended Minors

Students with a major in American Studies are encouraged to consider minors in affiliated departments in CAS or in other schools and colleges. Recommended areas of minors include visual arts, theatre arts, business administration, journalism, and communication studies.